Every year, on September first, a flood of new players hit the major leagues, called up from the minors for the traditional cup of coffee.
Most of these players do very little. They maybe have a few late-game pinch hitting appearances, get in some time as defensive replacements, or try to show what they can do when given an inning or two in a blowout. Every once in a while, however, something special happens. A rookie arrives who shows no signs of inexperience, and rather than simply helps his team, very nearly carries them through September and beyond.
The Red Sox are, of course, a very old team with many years worth of September callups to talk about. But given the nature both of baseball in this town, and September in general, it seems to me like the search for Boston's best can be narrowed down to just two seasons: 2004 and 2007. You don't need me to tell you why.
With that in mind, actually choosing a name is not hard at all. It has to be Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury's career with the Red Sox has been a bit of a bumpy ride. From ridiculous MVP-like heights in 2011 to injury-riddled lows in 2010 and 2012, hitting every point in between along the way. But there's no denying just how much of a high Ellsbury started on.
The 2007 Red Sox did not seem like a team that needed much help. They had established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball well before September started, but a 16-9 start to August suddenly soured when the Red Sox dropped four straight to end the month, including a sweep in New York. The division lead remained at five games, but with Coco Crisp struggling hard and Manny Ramirez lost at oblique sea, the outfield was in something of a state.
Amusingly, Ellsbury's September return--he had started six games earlier in the season--would be overshadowed by another callup in his first game back. After all, while Ellsbury did get a hit in his only at bat on September first, doubling home two runners, a rookie throwing a no-hitter tends to be kind of a big deal.
If Clay Buchholz jumped out to the early lead, however, he was quickly sent back down, while Ellsbury settled in. That double on September first kicked off a 13 game hitting streak for Ellsbury, with three homers and four stolen bases mixed in to boot. In his second game, Ellsbury scored one run and drove another in in a one-run Red Sox win. In his second, Ellsbury crossed home three times in, of course, a three-run Red Sox win.
Ellsbury would peter out a bit as September went on, and the random variance of baseball did not continue to paint him so clearly the difference between a flagging Red Sox team and a successful one. But at the end of the year, with the Red Sox outlasting the Yankees by just two games in the East, Ellsbury's ridiculous .361/.390/.536 performance stood large.
Expectations are high for Xander Bogaerts in the long run. And he's certainly showing a lot of promise given his seeming inability to do anything but hit line drives. But as far as his first full professional month is concerned, the bar has been set awfully high by the man in center field.
Read more Red Sox:
- Is Jacoby Ellsbury another Carl Crawford waiting to happen?
- What to do with Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, and Xander Bogaerts in 2014?
- Jacoby Ellsbury's resurgence
- Red Sox lineup rotations a complicated matter
- Will Middlebrooks making the most of his second chance with Red Sox